NCC encourages locals to clean their camping gear for invasive species

After a grueling six-month campaign, thNow that summer and camping season are coming to a close, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is reminding people to double check their gear for potentially hitchhiking species.

The NCC is launching efforts to control and eradicate invasive species. To do this, they implemented what is being referred to as an integrated pest management approach. This involves mechanical removal such as picking and mowing, as well as biological control agents and management of local vegetation.

“There are dozens of invasive species in Alberta and populations of some are increasing. That kind of thing is harming our natural ecosystems as well as farmland,” said Sean Feagan, NCC media and communications coordinator. “We just wanted to encourage people to take a few steps to increase their awareness of invasive species and a few simple steps they can take to help control their spread.”

Once introduced, it is possible for invasive species to dominate ecosystems and snuff out populations of native species.

According to Feagan, at this time of year, many invasive plant species have already gone to seed, making this time of year prime time for them to spread and develop.

Control efforts, especially for those who are returning from camping, fishing, boating or other outside activities, are relatively simple things to make good habits about conducting.

“I think one easy step is just to make sure that you clean your footwear once in a while. We are blessed in Alberta for the ability to travel long distances and explore different parts of the province … but a risk of that easy movement is spreading invasive species around,” said Feagan. “Looking at Strathmore and Wheatland County in particular, there is a strong agricultural land base here … and these agricultural areas are really important economically and producers spend a lot of money trying to control pests.”

Feagan added he would encourage Wheatland County locals to visit NCC sites throughout the province, as well as to learn more about their environment through the NCC website, but also to be aware of potentially spreading invasive species.

Robust footwear such as hiking boots can be effectively cleaned using a coarse brush or even an old toothbrush with soap and water to make sure hitchhikers such as seeds are removed from the shoe.

People who engage in outdoor activities are also recommended to simply be aware of what invasive species to keep an eye out for and how best to deal with them.

Apps such as iNaturalist and similar software or looking online before a trip can help to identify plants.

“An important thing to note is different types of weeds have different recommended methods for controlling them,” said Feagan. “What works for one weed species might not work for another. If a weed has gone to seed and you yank it out, there could be potential for spreading more seeds, so timing is also very important.”

For many species, once they are observed and identified, Feagan said he recommends notifying the appropriate local authorities to come out and properly deal with the plant in question to limit the risk of more spread.

More information is available through the NCC Website and via social media.

John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times